Day 5 – Peter – “I can be a doctor”

Most children in Africa have had a lifetime of corporal punishment, whether it be from their parents or from their teachers.  Peter said to me a few weeks ago that he accepted punishment when he had done things wrong, but why should he be punished when he had done nothing wrong?

I will talk more about corporal punishment in the next blog, but there is one impact that beating has and that is that children are fearful of the consequences of what they say and that means that they either stay silent or they tell you what you want to hear.    Since we are teaching young people to be social entrepreneurs, we have to undo these years of subjugation and tell them that the truth is most important and that they will not be beaten, whatever they say.  I wonder how much of this supposed corruption that we see in Africa is caused by this root cause of fear, as NGOs tell funders what they want to hear, as opposed to what they know will happen.

The video above is a captured interview of Akena Peter, way back in December 2010.  Peter has gained much confidence this year, but he still has a passion to be a doctor and this candid interview with Brian Ogwang, one of the residents at the Chrysalis Centre, shows his inner confidence that we can bring out by supporting him into the future.

If you have seen the video, then Peter hints at a difficult past.  He was brought up in Pader, which is slightly South and East of Kitgum (in Northern Uganda) during the war period in a small village.  His mother was a tailor and his father was a medic in the war resistance.  unfortunately, his father was shot while tending to the wounded people and was killed.  I guess that Peter’s desire to heal people comes from his father’s example, but his mother also impresses.  As the war progressed, more and more children became orphaned and with her meagre tailor’s salary, she selflessly took them into her house.  The numbers became so many that she sent her own son, Peter, to live with his grandmother in Lokung, Lamwo district, which is where we found him.

Peter the day he won the running prize at the Mandela Stadium

Amongst other things, Peter is an excellent runner and won one of the events we did at the Mandela stadium, at the same time winning some “lucky” training shorts, given by a local star athlete.  He’s modest about his athleticism, but always takes part in the running we do with Morrish and Francis.  He’s an all-rounder, though – a very good artist too and we loved his butterfly featured in a calendar we produced this year.  He’s even had some poetry published in the Razor newspaper.

Peter is very polite and his spoken and written English and comprehension has always been very good.  When we recruit we do an exercise with the potential project members about research and journalism.  Peter was exceptional at this, so it was only natural that he take on the project of  a Local Youth Newspaper, for which Peter wrote most of the text and recruited the journalists.  Children came from all over the Acholi Quarter to participate, bringing their news.  In the last issue there was even a bit of a ruckus, when adults were unhappy about us featuring the scrap-collecting that children do locally, even though we were careful not to mention the individual children that we know collect scrap.

Academically, Peter is very good.  He scored 100% in his maths in Term 1 and, like Joel and Charles are A+ students, according to the Ugandan curriculum for Senior 1.  At the end of the year, Peter was one tenth of a percent behind Joel, coming second in the year.  So, just as Peter says, we know he can be a doctor, if we can continue to find him his school fees into the future.  If you can help him with this, then please write to this email.

Peter (right) with some of his young journalists

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